Nonprofit Collaboration Unveils Mobile Crisis Outreach Van to Reach Youth Experiencing Homelessness Where They Are
November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, and local nonprofit Residential Youth Services and Empowerment (RYSE) is pleased to announce its Mobile Crisis Outreach (MCO) project, an innovative model that shares resources between five nonprofit organizations working together to alleviate youth homelessness on Oahu. RYSE partnered with Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center, Hale Kipa, Waikiki Health/ Youth Outreach!, and ALEA Bridge/ Achieve Zero to launch the MCO.
All five organizations utilize the newly purchased MCO van to respond to youth ages 14 to 24 experiencing homelessness where they are, when they need help, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The MCO van also does pop-up visits monthly to areas with high concentrations of youth experiencing homelessness.
This project stemmed from the Partners In Care Oahu Coordinated Community Plan To End Youth Homelessness. It is funded by a grant from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, along with the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, which provided startup resources for each of the partners. An AlohaCare Access to Care grant contributed funding for outreach staff, medications and supplies.
“A key part of our mission is improving the health of our island community. Reaching homeless youth on Oahu to provide care and shelter via our Access to Care grants helps us reach those most in need,” said Francoise Culley-Trotman, AlohaCare’s chief executive officer. “We’re proud to support the effective and innovative collaboration between RYSE and its partners as they share a van and aloha with our most vulnerable teens and young adults.”
The Mobile Crisis Outreach initiative offers outreach and education; medical benefits registration; agency and service referrals; harm reduction services; COVID referrals; LGBTQ+ support and shelter referrals, in addition to food, clothing, and more. This year, the MCO teams had over 244 encounters with youth on the streets, and responded to more than 70 phone calls for urgent assistance, highlighting the need for collaboration to effectively serve and support our most vulnerable youth during a pandemic.
“With the MCO van, we are able to meet youth on the street and in the parks – where they are – on a consistent basis, so that they can trust us to be present and help them when they need us,” RYSE program manager Kathryn Boyer said. “It also allows us the flexibility to respond 24 hours a day to any youth that are on the street and in need of shelter, food, or support. We are here to help youth get off the streets and end their homelessness.”
Even the art wrapping the MCO van offers hope, depicting a welcoming wahine wearing a haku lei, at the beach with the Koolau Mountains in the background. The artist, Kehau Repolio, is a former RYSE resident who has since moved on to stable housing and employment, and encourages street youth to consider getting support. “If you want to find a way out of your homeless situation, being locked up, having a bad family situation, or just landed in the streets with nowhere to go – call RYSE. They are there for you and your life can improve and get better,” Kehau said.
While the MCO van travels around the island of Oahu to reach places from Waikiki to the North Shore, particular importance is placed on the Leeward community, where the highest concentrations of Native Hawaiian youth experiencing homelessness are located. Executive Director of RYSE, Carla Houser, shared, “We have also put an emphasis on hiring and training youth with lived experience in juvenile justice, foster care, addiction, and homelessness. It’s important that youth living unsheltered feel safe, and can connect with someone who looks and talks like them, understands what they are going through, and can meet them where they are in their journey through adolescence into adulthood.” And with increased COVID rates on the west side of Oahu, the MCO has a concentrated effort to reach youth in Kapolei, Ewa Beach, Waianae and Nanakuli to help connect youth with COVID education, vaccinations, and testing.
During the month of November, RYSE is holding its annual fundraiser, RYSE Up! 2021, to support operational costs for the shelters and services provided to houseless and opportunity youth in Hawaii. Due to the pandemic, the fundraiser will be completely virtual and each table sale includes a “Host Your Own” event kit which includes gift cards to MW Restaurant and educational materials for an at-home, COVID-safe experience. For more information on RYSE Up! 2021, click here or call Dana Matlin at 808-398-7155.
Please feel free to share the MCO crisis phone number, and if you see us on the road, feel free to say hi!
Services offered with Mobile Crisis Outreach include:
- Outreach and education
- Medical benefits registration
- Agency and service referrals
- Harm reduction services
- COVID screenings
- LGBTQ+ support
- Shelter referrals
AlohaCare (https://alohacare.org/) is a community-led, nonprofit health plan founded in 1994 by Hawaiʻi’s community health centers and is the only local health plan solely dedicated to serving those eligible for Hawaiʻi’s QUEST Integration Medicaid and Medicare program. The nonprofit services over 79,000 Hawaiʻi members and is the state’s second largest Medicaid/Medicare health plan.
ALEA Bridge/ Achieve Zero (https://aleabridge.org/) Founded in January 2016, ALEA Bridge champions to provide outreach and afterhours outreach homeless services and referrals to communities all over the Island of Oahu. Their mission is to empower people in need to achieve self-sufficiency through genuine compassion, focusing on innovative, community-based solutions. ALEA Bridge presently services more than 1,000 homeless and at-risk homeless, individuals, families, veterans and youth in their areas of impact.
Hale Kipa (https://www.halekipa.org/) has been at the forefront of services to runaway, homeless and street-identified youth and young adults for over 30 years. In collaboration with Waikiki Health, Hale Kipa has been serving between 400 and 800 individuals a year through the Youth Outreach (YO!) program. At YO!, Hale Kipa provides street outreach, Drop-In, case management, pre-employment training and pregnancy prevention groups. Additionally, Hale Kipa contributes to a wide array of services including foster homes, group homes, transitional and independent living programs as well as community-based advocacy.
Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center (HRRRC) (https://www.hhhrc.org/) works to reduce harm, promote health, create wellness and fight stigma in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. HHHRC works at the intersection of homelessness, substance abuse, mental health, the criminal justice system and chronic diseases such as HIV, serving an average of 1,700 people a year. HHHRC’s outreach is island-wide with a focus on young people who are struggling with substance use, the LGBTQ+ community and young people who are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
Waikiki Community Health Center (WCHC)/ Youth Outreach (https://waikikihc.org/) Waikiki Community Health Center is a safety net provider in Waikiki that saw 49,007 patient visits in 2018. As a Federally Qualified Health Center, WCHC provides behavioral, dental and medical services to Medicaid beneficiaries and those uninsured living in the Waikiki area. It jointly operates Youth Outreach (YO!) with Hale Kipa to provide runaway, homeless and at-risk youth up to the age of 22 basic needs services, medical care and nonjudgmental support. The Youth Clinic (serving youth aged 14 and older) offers primary medical care, health education, family planning, behavioral health services, STI/HIV testing and screening.